The Wars of Abraham

September 23, 1990|By Charles Hazard

THE FIRST BLOOD of the Civil War was shed not on some great battlefield, but on our own Pratt Street, hard by today's Harborplace. On April 19, 1861, a week after bombardment of Fort Sumter, S, C. (where there were no battle casualties), soldiers of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment were passing, through Baltimore on their way to Washington to answer President Lincoln's call for troops to defend the capital. The P.W. & B. rail line, from the north, ended at the President Street Station, near Little Italy. The troops detrained and formed for a, quick march to the B. & O. Station at Camden Yards to catch a train south to Washington.

They crossed the Jones Falls on the Pratt Street bridge marching west to the Camden Station. At first they were showered with curses and bottles. Then shots rang out from the mob, calling forth return volleys of musketry from the soldiers. Dead and wounded were numerous, both among the Union soldiers and among Baltimore's rowdy secessionists.

The Incident prompted President Lincoln to suspend Maryland's constitutional rights; many civic leaders and citizens were arrested. It also prompted the federal government to occupy Baltimore for the length of the war, because a Confederate city to the north of Washington would, have been a strategic nightmare. Bucolic Federal Hill is our present-day reminder of that presence. It was once a Union fort of occupation bristling with cannon.

Southern sympathy ran high in Baltimore, but those who expressed it risked jail in Fort McHenry. Many writers and journalists adopted noms' de plume to protect themselves. A letter from a Mr. "Suggs" to a rebel friend, describing in mock-biblical style the riot in Baltimore, turned up this month, folded into the pages of an old book bought at auction. The cartoon, left, was on the letterhead, and the drawing above decorated the envelope in which the letter below was sent.

Charles Hazard is an artist at The Sun.

Chronicles of the Wars of "Abraham"

By one of the Scribes, who is called "Suggs"

1. And when Abraham had gathered together his Captains and host, he waxed exceedingly wroth.

2. And his anger was kindled against the children of the middle land, even against Virginia, which is called the Mother of rulers.

3. And he raised his voice and spake thus unto his Captains and host.

4. Saying, go forth into the land of Virginia with fire & sword.

5. Smite and spare not, but utterly destroy every son and daughter of the land - save the children of "Ham."

6. For they have a pleasant odor in my nostrils, and I fain would spare them from the wrath which is come upon that land.

7. And take ye the fairest of the daughters of "Ham," that I may have them to wife.

8. I and the captains of my hosts that are with me - even Scott the, mightly in battle. [Gen. Winfield Scott was the Northern commander.)

9. And when you have utterly destroyed that people from off the face of the earth.

10. Then shall ye possess their lands as an inheritance forever.

11. And the children of "Ham" shall dwell with you, and ye shall be as one people marrying and giving in marriage.

12. But when Jefferson the son of Davis, heard these things, he called upon the children of the Sunny Land to go forth to battle.

13. And their young men came as a bridegroom goeth to his chambers.

14. With exceeding great Joy and waving of banners, and music of Timbrel and drum.

15. And mothers girded their firstborn with armor and strength -- even with truth, and sent them forth with joy.

16. And fair maidens gave banners and tokens to those who went forth to fight for the Mother of rulers.

17. And behold there were gathered together a mighty host and encamped round about the walled city of Abraham - even about the City of Washington.

18. And it came to pass as the Armies of Abraham passed through the land of Maryland, they came to the city of Baltimore.

19. And the people were gathered together with great tumult and spat upon them and threw stones, and slew many of their young men.

20. And sent rumors to Abraham saying, we will not let your young men pass through our land to fight the Mother of rulers.

21. For her people are our people, and her God, our God, and we will not that she be made desolate.

22. And when the messenger had come unto Abraham and told him these things he rent his garments, and said.

23. Is thy servant a dog that ye should do these things?

24. For even now, Jefferson the son of Davis hath encompassed my walled city round about with armed men.

25. And he hath smote my armies that were in my walled city of defense, even in Sumter.

26. With fire and sword he hath smote them and spared not.

27. And he thirsteth for my blood, so that I am sore afraid.

28. And when I have called on my young men, in this my sore trouble, ye will not that they shall hearken unto my voice.

29. For my young men are not birds that they have wings to fly over your land.

30. Neither can they burrow as the mole who maketh him a way under the earth.

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